“Orange is the New Black” doesn’t need Piper and Alex anymore

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Orange Is The New Black Season 3 hits you right in the feelings, whatever you’re feeling. Between Pennsatucky’s unsettling story arc and heartbreaking backstory and the revelations of Chang’s violent past, Norma’s former life as a hippie cult sister wife, Flaca’s futile attempt to scrape up some extra money to help finance her mother’s cancer treatment, and Big Boo’s coming out story, this season centered on some of the most emotion-punching reveals the show has seen yet.

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Since Season 1, one of the best parts of Orange Is The New Black has been the flashbacks. They were so especially poignant this particularly backstory-heavy season that everything else that wasn’t a backstory came into much sharper focus and turned everything between them into kind of a come-down, and it was a rough come-down. All that really remained between flashback was Alex and Piper’s relationship. Alex and Piper fighting, Alex and Piper breaking up, Alex and Piper getting back together. These two have reached peak insufferability at the exact moment that the show has stopped needing them to be there, and they really don’t need to be there anymore.

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I’m not advocating for Alex or Piper to be killed off the show, because that could effectively kill the entire show. As the foundational character and center of the show’s entire “white lady gets into big trouble” premise, Piper can’t disappear altogether, but she’s not really central to the story anymore. She happens to be the most insufferable, least interesting character on the show, and her relationship with Alex has become exhausting. The two have served their purpose by setting up the foundation for all the other stories to be revealed, so hypothetically, they don’t really need to be there anymore. While Piper was caught up running the used panty business and Alex was paranoid her former drug boss was out to get her from the inside for most of Season 3, the world of the show kept turning without them. Nothing really changed for either of them, aside from her little dalliance with Stella that teaches Piper to “trust no bitch,” Stella who by the way is hot but is mostly written as a pouty Muppet version of Shane from The L Word, but the “Piper goes bad” storyline has already been played out. Now, Alex and Piper are that couple at a party that clearly someone invited, yet no one is claiming, and now they refuse to leave. Oh, they’re still here? Huh.

I don’t mean to tell anyone how to do their job. It’s just that people would still watch Orange Is The New Black if Alex and Piper weren’t there, or if they were at least demoted to minor character status. Can’t Alex be, like, transferred to another prison or something? Can’t Piper do a Larry and quietly phase herself out to the big Litchfield in the sky where retired characters peacefully live out their twilight years? And wasn’t one tense surprise reunion between Alex and Piper in Season 1 enough? HAVEN’T WE BEEN HERE BEFORE??I’m losing my mind over a pair of TV lesbians. That’s not a bad thing, I’d just rather not be driven batshit insane by this particular pair of TV lesbians. Like what’s the fucking deal with Bennett? What is even happening with Daya and the baby? What about Soso and her depression? Are her and Poussey, like, a thing? These are things I want to know. Piper and Alex? Not a thing.

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The closing scene in Season 3 did nothing to answer my pressing questions, but if it was meant to serve as a carefully crafted moment of wish fulfillment, it worked, because it offered a brief and shining glimpse at what the show could look like if Piper and Alex were maybe just like, not there. They don’t need to be killed off, or even transferred to separate prisons. They just need to see other people, be on their own and maybe eventually acquire a new friend or two. Never hurt anybody. Contrary to what Drake would have you believe, everybody needs to have some new friends.